Last week we discussed Ebony wood, one of the most expensive lumber on the planet. Now, let's find more interesting facts about their classifications and important areas of differences. Two major classifications for ebony trees are Gaboon Ebony (Diospyros crassiflora) and Indian Ebony (Diospyros ebenum).
These premium trees are native to western Africa, known by the common names of African Ebony, Nigerian Ebony, Cameroon Ebony, etc. Gaboon Ebony is the most sought wood for making piano keys, clarinets, violin, guitar, oboes, bagpipes, etc. They are popular in the USA and Canada. Even though jet-black is the identity of Gaboon Ebony, due to various reasons, 70-80% of the available woods may have dark brown or grayish-brown streaks in it. Based on the streaks present, Gaboon trees are further classified into A grade(fewer streaks) and B grade(more streaks). Applying dyes can rectify the streaks issues to an extent.
A Piece of Gaboon Ebony Turning Blank
Indian ebonies, native to southern India and Sri Lanka are uniformly black, straight, and comparatively easy to work with. Also known as East Indian Ebony or simply Ceylon Ebony, they are most welcome in the markets of Australia, Japan, China, and some of the European countries. The fine finishing makes these woods popular in the wood industry. The presence of mineral streaks like white spots or silver spots and brown color are some of the main quality issues faced by Indian ebonies. Researches have shown that we can reduce the mineral streaks by keeping them for 3-4 weeks before using. Also applying dyes to the ebonies is helpful to overcome the mineral streaks in the case of Indian Ebony.
Indian Ebony Fingerboard Lot
Let's discuss some of the crucial points that can differentiate both of these ebonies.
- Janka Hardness
Janka Hardness Test is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear. Gaboon Ebony has a rating of 3080 lbf compared to the 2430 lbf rating of Indian Ebony. Hence Indian Ebony is 20% less hard compared to the hardness of Gaboon Ebony.
- Decay Resistance(Rot Resistance)
One of the most important factors that have to be taken note is the wood resistance to rotting. Gaboon Ebony is rated as being very durable, with good resistance to termites and other insects. The portions of the black heartwood of Indian Ebony are very durable regarding decay resistance.
- The ability to work with
Gaboon Ebonies is difficult to work due to its extremely high density. Tearout can occur on pieces that have irregular grain. It sometimes has a dulling effect on cutters. Due to the high oil content found in this wood, it can occasionally cause problems with gluing. Major attractions are, they have a good Finishing and polishes to a high luster. It responds well to steam bending. For Indian Ebonies, they are difficult to work on account of its density and strong blunting effect on cutting edges. It can be difficult to dry, with checks or other drying defects developing. Also, they are difficult to glue. Indian Ebony turns superbly and takes a very high natural polish.
- Cost and Availability
Gaboon Ebony is considered to be one of the most expensive of all available lumbers. It is said to be about two to three times more expensive than most of the species of rosewood. The major reasons for the high demand include the small size of the tree and its popularity for ornamental work. Indian Ebony was once called as the original ebony of commerce. But it is seldom available today. We can expect high prices due to the scarcity of wood which is the result of a rapid increase in wood cutting.
- Odor, Common Uses
Gaboon Ebony has a mildly unpleasant odor when being worked whereas Indian Ebony doesn't have any characteristic odor. Gaboon Ebony is well fond of making ornamental items, carvings, piano keys, pool cues, musical instrument parts, and other small specialty items. Indian Ebony is well known for musical instrument parts, Inlay, carving, and turned objects.
Ebony trees may take approximately 150 years to reach their prime, which transforms into the finest jet-black trees. But the current situation of proliferating wood cutting without any considerations makes it difficult to get enough pure stock in the wood market. Imagine, if all of the customers are behind jet-black ebony wood, then the majority white-streak ebonies will lay wasted in the market. We should accept the fact that all these trees are coming from nature and there is nothing the manufacturer or supplier can do to rectify the defects.